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Elisabeth Kovtiak

Abstract

This paper deals with the politics of memory in contemporary Georgia’s public space. It explores the relations between official and vernacular commemorations of the Soviet past in Tbilisi. In this paper, I have studied the forms of materialization of vernacular memories in the public space and provided a frame in which they exist, including the ideological background of decommunization in Georgia and peculiarities of the Soviet era museumizing in state museums. The official discourse demonizes the previous epoque and neglects all its benefits, whereas the ordinary people are quite nuanced in their memories of their past – this contradiction leads to manifestations of vernacular memories. Therefore, this paper focuses mostly on Tbilisi’s Dry Bridge, a famous flea market where the memory of the recent Soviet past is negotiated. The main argument is that this particular flea market and its artifacts might be regarded as a “vernacular memorial” and “lieu de memoire” where nostalgia for an officially demonized era can be expressed and materialized. This paper explores the items that are on sale, explaining their meaning for the post-Soviet people, and describes the intangible practices that can be observed there. In addition, this paper unpacks that these nostalgic practices should not be considered as “unhealthy” or “retrospective” as it helps people to adapt to modernity and develop by considering more than one hegemonic version of their past.